I had nearly 2 pounds of chard stems taking up room in the fridge so I finally got around to trying a chard stem gratin a la Alice Waters. She has a method, not really a recipe, for the gratin in her book Chez Panisse Vegetables. So here's my version with quite a few deviations from the original. You will have to use your imagination to picture it since I don't have the patience to photograph dishes hot out of the oven, I want to eat!
Chard Stem Gratin
1/4 pound pancetta
1 pound chard stems (I'll use 1 1/2 lbs next time)
1/2 cup cream
chopped Italian parsley
fresh ground black pepper
fresh grated nutmeg
2 ounces gruyere, coarsely grated
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
Cut the pancetta into thin slices and then into 1/2 inch pieces. Cook in a medium size saute pan over medium heat until crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan. Reserve another tablespoon of the fat on the side.
Cut the chard stems on the diagonal into about 1/2 to 1-inch pieces, a mix of sizes is nice. Saute them briefly over medium heat in the pancetta fat. I used a little salt at this point but won't next time I make it because the final dish was a little salty for my taste. Add about 1/2 cup of water to the pan, cover the pan, allow to come to a boil, turn the heat down and cook until tender. I think it took about 10 minutes. Most of the liquid should be cooked away at this point.
Put the cooked stems into a lightly oiled 6-cup gratin dish. Sprinkle the pancetta bits over the top. Add the cream to the dish. Grind fresh black pepper over all. Grate a bit of nutmeg over all. Sprinkle with the parsley, I used a few tablespoons. Sprinkle on the grated grated gruyere. Toss the dried bread crumbs with the reserved pancetta fat and sprinkle evenly over the gratin. Bake at 450 F. for about 30 minutes, until the top is crispy and nicely browned.
It's a pretty rich dish. We had that for dinner last night along with a simple green salad with fresh figs (still in the market!) that I had roasted with a bit of blue cheese, walnuts, walnut oil and balsamico.